Danske Bank Premiership Matchday 35 Preview: Can Cliftonville throw a wrench into Crusaders’ run for the title?

Northern Ireland

Bottom Half

Portadown v Ballinamallard United Friday 14th April 20:00

Portadown’s victory over Carrick Rangers prolonged the agony of confirming their automatic relegation to the Championship, anything by a win on Friday will confirm their position at the foot of the table. Ballinamallard’s victory over Glentoran brought them 3 points closer to that final Europa League playoff spot but they remain 8 points behind Dungannon and will require something just short of a miracle to make up the deficit in the final four matches.

Carrick Rangers v Ards Saturday 15th April 15:00

Carrick’s disappointing loss to Portadown has put their slim chances of avoiding a relegation playoff into jeopardy, failure to win against Ards will take this possibility away from them. Carrick will need to pick themselves up again as they defeat to Portadown came as a result of shipping two late goals to lose the game from a winning position. Ards have picked up a decent run of form and will be buoyed by the news of manager Colin Nixon’s contract renewal. Ards are just a point behind Dungannon and will harbour hopes of overtaking the Stangmore side to claim a European playoff spot.

Dungannon Swifts v Glentoran Saturday 15th April 15:00

Dungannon lost goalkeeper Coleman to injury in their defeat against Ards last week but managed to keep hold of 7th place due to their opponent’s loss to Ballinamallard. Dungannon will hope to bounce back and consolidate their spot in the table for the remaining three matches. Glentoran’s defeat to Ballinamallard has unearthed further discontent amongst the support as the Glens seem to continue their downward spiral. A trip to Dungannon is certainly not what Glentoran would have wished for but a victory here would certainly help to lift spirits, if only temporarily.

Top Half

Coleraine v Glenavon Saturday 15th April 15:00

Coleraine’s victory over struggling Cliftonville pushed the Bannsiders into pole position for 3rd place which would guarantee them European football next season. Coleraine’s unbeaten run in the league stretches back to Boxing Day and they’ll be confident going into this game against a Glenavon side they beat 2-1 away in their last fixture together. A double for Jordan Jenkins helped lead Glenavon to a 3-0 victory over Ballymena at Mourneview Park. The Lurgan Blues can finish 4th at the highest but remain 10 points behind Cliftonville who occupy that position.

Ballymena United v Linfield Saturday 15th April 15:00

Ballymena’s loss to Glenavon extending their stretch of games without a win to four as they saw their chances of finishing in 3rd place all but fade away. Sky Blues manager David Jeffrey will come face to face again with his former club that he led to no less than 31 major honours. Linfield’s victory over Crusaders has brought them to within a point of their title rivals, a gap that was actually 9 points just seven weeks ago. Linfield have won 9 of their last 10 league titles and confidence is growing at Windsor that the Blues can march on to overtook their North Belfast counterparts.

Cliftonville v Crusaders Saturday 15th April 15:00

Cliftonville now lie 5 points adrift of 3rd place after their loss to Coleraine, the Reds need to claim victory in this North Belfast derby if they want to retain any chance of climbing back into the third spot. Crusaders’ shaky end of season run in continued last week as they lost further ground to Linfield who are hot on their heels in the title race. A victory over Cliftonville could be just the confidence booster the Hatchetmen need to drive them on to a third successive league title.